Following is the section of a House appropriations subcommittee’s report on a fiscal 2023 spending bill on OPM, giving that agency a number of to-do items for next year and beyond.
Federal Employee Hiring.—The Committee encourages OPM and the Suitability Executive Agent to continue to review policies and guidelines regarding hiring and firing of individuals who use marijuana in states where that individual’s private use of marijuana is not prohibited under the law of the State. These policies should reflect updated changes to the law on marijuana usage and clearly state the impact of marijuana usage on Federal employment. The Committee encourages the Administration to apply these policies with consistency and fairness.
Federal Government Recruiting Process.—The Committee is concerned with the length of time it often takes the Federal government to hire qualified employees and directs OPM to continue to find ways to reduce barriers to Federal employment and reduce delays in the hiring process. Rigid rules and long delays in the hiring and interview process discourage top candidates from applying for or accepting Federal positions. Specifically, the Committee encourages OPM to seek input from hiring managers on the type of challenges they face, improvements that could be made to make the Federal hiring process more efficient and effective, and which hiring authorities they find most beneficial. As part of OPM’s mission to recruit and hire the most talented and diverse Federal workforce, the Committee encourages Federal agencies to increase recruitment efforts within the United States and its territories and at Hispanic Serving Institutions and Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Strategic Workforce Planning.—To better attract, retain, and develop a Federal cyber workforce, OPM is directed to expand efforts to educate Federal personnel responsible for hiring and administering Federal employee development programs on the benefits of hiring authorities, compensation flexibilities, and employee development and cyber development programs. The Committee is pleased to provide robust funding for OPM to support these initiatives.
Workforce Diversity.—Congress looks forward to the report requested in House Report 117–79 on Enhanced Federal Workforce Diversity.
Transparency in Political Appointment Diversity.—The Committee recognizes and encourages new efforts to increase the diversity of the Federal workforce, including political appointees. The Committee also recognizes the need for data and transparency in order to achieve a workforce that represents all segments of society.
The Committee directs OPM to report on aggregate data, on a quarterly basis, on currently serving political appointees by categories such as gender, race, veteran status, and appointment type, and grouped by agency where possible within 90 days after enactment of this Act.
Non-Foreign Area Hiring.—The Committee continues to be concerned that capable candidates may be dissuaded from applying for or accepting Federal positions due to their unfamiliarity with the Federal hiring portal, USAJOBS, and the Federal hiring process.
This is especially of concern in non-foreign areas, where Federal agencies continue to struggle to recruit and retain employees.
Within one year of enactment of this Act, the Committee directs OPM to provide a report to the Committee on the number of unfilled Federal positions, any agency and applicant feedback on barriers to applying for a Federal job, and community recruitment outreach efforts in the non-foreign areas.
Federal Wage System.—The Committee is concerned that some General Schedule (GS) localities include several Federal Wage System areas, which creates pay increase disparities for hourly workers within a GS locality. The Committee encourages OPM to explore limiting the number of local wage areas defined within a GS Pay Locality to a single wage area.
Returning to Federal Employment.—Programs that support reentry into the workforce for those who have taken a leave of absence to care for a dependent are often referred to as returnships, return-to-work, and re-entry programs, and have been used in state governments and private industry to bolster the workforce. The Committee directs OPM to assess the feasibility and potential benefits of establishing returnship programs within the Federal government and report to the Committee no later than September 30, 2023. The feasibility study shall assess: (1) where returnship programs could be used to address the workforce needs and bolster the knowledge and experience base of the federal workforce; (2) how the programs would be structured and the estimated funding levels to implement the programs; and (3) if and how returnship programs impact the diversity of the Federal workforce.
IT Modernization.—The Committee remains concerned with OPM’s progress in improving its IT security and infrastructure, and its efforts to implement GAO and OIG recommendations for improving information security. The Committee looks forward to receiving the report directed in House Report 117–79 on how blockchain technology can help improve OPM’s IT security and infrastructure.
Telework.—The Committee directs OPM to brief the Committee within 180 days after enactment of this Act on work productivity during the pandemic and provide recommendations, and guidance regarding Federal telework and remote work.
Military Buy Back Program.—The Committee directs OPM to issue guidance requiring Federal agencies to notify within 90 days any former active duty new hire that they qualify for the Military Buy Back Program.
Federal Child Care Study.—The Committee directs OPM to conduct a study to analyze the current state of child care for the Federal workforce. The study should include an overview of the federal child care landscape, and a detailed analysis of the availability of child care programs in the ten largest Federal departments or agencies, including employee utilization of and access to child care programs. OPM is directed to brief the Committee on its findings by September 30, 2023.
Bureau of Prisons Special Pay Incentive.—The Committee is aware of the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) request to OPM to provide a 25 percent special pay incentive to certain BOP facilities. To ensure the safety of staff and inmates, the Committee encourages OPM to expedite and grant special pay incentives for BOP facilities in which 10 percent or more of the total available positions are vacant, prioritizing facilities with the largest number of vacancies.
Bureau of Prison Retention Bonuses.—The Committee recognizes that agencies have the authority to approve a retention incentive without OPM approval for payments of up to 10 percent for a group or category of employees. OPM approval is required for an agency to exceed these limits, based on critical agency need. Under an OPM retention incentive waiver, an agency could approve a retention incentive of up to 50 percent of basic pay. To ensure the safety of staff and inmates, the Committee encourages OPM to expedite and grant requests for group and category of employees incentive payments above 10 percent for BOP facilities in which 10 percent or more of the total available positions are vacant, prioritizing facilities with the largest number of vacancies.
Retirement Services.—The Committee is concerned with the lengthy delays to process retirement and survivor claims and update health insurance benefits, as well as other critical changes that impact retirement benefits. These delays cause hardships for Federal annuitants and their families. OPM is directed to brief the Committee quarterly on OPM’s efforts and progress to reduce these delays. OPM is directed to post on its website monthly reports indicating the length of time it takes to process initial retirement claims, applications for survivor benefits, annuitant health benefit adjustments, and other FEHB and FEGLI adjustments. Additionally, OPM is expected to keep the Committee informed on the measures OPM is taking to decrease the processing delays and improve customer service levels, including the average time it takes a caller to reach an OPM operator and the number and percentage of unanswered calls.
Centralized Enrollment.—As OPM works to develop the business requirements for the new postal enrollment system, the Committee encourages OPM to assess how these requirements can be applied to enhance federal benefit enrollment and updates to the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance Program, Federal Dental and Vision Insurance Program, Federal Flexibility Spending Account Program, and any other future offerings made available (e.g., voluntary benefits). The Committee directs OPM to brief the Committee by September 30, 2023 on its findings.
Federal Financial Systems.—The Committee continues to support OPM’s efforts to modernize and replace the Federal Financial Systems (FFS), which is the core centralized accounting system used to manage OPM’s trust funds. OPM is directed to continue to brief the Committee as outlined in House Report 116–456.
Quarterly Briefings on Modernization.—The Committee is concerned with OPM’s modernization efforts and requests the continuation of quarterly briefings to the Committees. Each briefing should include the total IT modernization budget broken out by project; obligations and unobligated balances by project; and the progress, anticipated completion date, and significant concerns for each project.
OPM IT Working Capital Fund.—In fiscal year 2022 OPM created the Information Technology Working Capital Fund (IT–WCF) utilizing the authority provided to Federal agencies by the Modernizing Government Technology Act (Public Law 115–91). The IT– WCF provides sustained funding to improve and replace OPM’s legacy systems and enhance their cybersecurity posture. Within 90 days after enactment of this Act, OPM is directed to brief the Committee on the IT–WCF’s balance, oversight and management, and projects funded through the IT–WCF.
Value-based Contracting and Inclusion of Midwives and Birth Centers.—The OPM is encouraged to evaluate participating plans in the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program regarding increasing the percent of services purchased through value-based contracting versus fee for service, including services with midwives and birth centers, as well as other healthcare services and brief the Committee within six months of enactment of this Act.
Management Agenda Reminder.—The Committee is concerned with the prior Administration’s efforts to override collective bargaining agreements with Executive Agencies and reminds Federal agencies of the President’s Management Agenda that recognizes the importance of collective bargaining to employee morale and mission effectiveness.